Answer Is Still No To Ore. Anti-Gay-Rights Measure -- Bid To Legalize Physician-Assisted Suicide Up In Air -- Around The Northwest
Times News Services
For the second time in as many years, Oregon voters refused to go along with a measure that would have put the state on record against gay rights.
A similar measure in Idaho also was defeated.
Oregon's Measure 13 was a toned-down version of one rejected by the state's voters in 1992 but still would have had the effect of banning laws giving specific protections to gay men and lesbians.
"Oregonians are not fooled by the OCA, and they were not fooled by Measure 13," said Julie Davis of the No on 13 Committee. "They saw it as an attempt to permanently legalize discrimination."
The Oregon Citizens Alliance and other backers of the measure had hoped that the softer wording of Measure 13 would encourage voters to send a message that the state doesn't condone homosexuality.
OCA spokesman Scott Lively said the group won't give up and will come back in the future with another anti-gay-rights measure.
ALSO IN OREGON:
-- Democrat John Kitzhaber, a medical doctor and chief architect of Oregon's health-reform plan, won the gubernatorial race over Republican Denny Smith, a former congressman.
Kitzhaber succeeds Democratic Gov. Barbara Roberts, who did not seek re-election after a single term.
The Oregon Health Plan, which went into effect Feb. 1 and has been considered a model for a possible national plan, expanded Medicaid coverage to bring in poor people who could not afford private insurance.
The plan also limited coverage to the most effective procedures.
-- An initiative that would make Oregon the first place in the world to legalize physician-assisted suicide was narrowly passing, but too close to call.
Measure 16 supporters and opponents alike said they were encouraged by the neck-and-neck race.
"This is so different than Washington and California, where there was a big margin of defeat," said Barbara Coombs Lee, chief petitioner for the initiative, referring to recent defeats in those states.
Lee said supporters were disappointed only that they were outspent nearly 2-to-1 by opponents who relied on heavy fund raising nationally by the Roman Catholic Church.
"The church raised about $2 million," she said. "We had less than half of that."
The leader of the opposition said he was confident that rural voters would defeat Measure 16 after absentee ballots were counted. County clerks estimated 300,000 people voted absentee around the state.
"But I think most of us in the coalition worry about what will happen to the most vulnerable, the elderly, the poor, if this passes," said Pat McCormick, spokesman for the Coalition for Compassionate Care.
One doctor who opposed the measure said he did not expect any major changes for physicians if the measure passes, but he said it could turn Oregon into a social laboratory for the rest of the nation.
"People are looking toward this state for a model," said Dr. Winston Maxwell, a Eugene internist. "People will set up studies and gather data to see whether the worst predictions will come true or not."
The vote comes 4 1/2 years after Dr. Jack Kevorkian focused the media spotlight on physician-assisted suicide by helping an Oregon woman end her life in his van outside Detroit.
Oregon supporters carefully crafted the initiative to make sure only the patient can take the final step, unlike similar measures rejected recently in neighboring California and Washington.
Under the Oregon measure, if a doctor predicted a patient had less than six months to live, and a second doctor agreed, the patient could ask for a lethal prescription. The request must be made twice, then once again in writing, after the doctors made sure every alternative had been rejected. It would be up to the patient to administer the drugs.
-- Republican Wes Cooley, a first-term state senator considered a long shot when he first announced his candidacy, won the vacant seat in Oregon's 2nd Congressional District with a solid victory over Democrat Sue Kupillas.
Catherine Webber, seeking to keep the 5th District in Democratic hands, appeared to be defeating Republican Jim Bunn. Democratic Rep. Elizabeth Furse also led Republican businessman Bill Witt in the 1st District.
Democratic Reps. Ron Wyden and Peter DeFazio easily defeated token opposition.
Wyden will be serving his eighth term from the 3rd District, which includes most of the Portland area. DeFazio won his fifth term in the 4th District, which covers much of southwestern Oregon, including Eugene.
-- Oregon voters got tough on crime, strongly enacting measures to stiffen mandatory sentences for violent crimes and put prisoners to work.
By supporting the prison work and mandatory-sentencing measures, voters are establishing a beachhead in a long war against crime that the Legislature wasn't willing to fight, said state Rep. Kevin Mannix, D-Salem, who sponsored the measures and led the low-budget campaign for passage.
"We've turned around a system that was morally bankrupt and intellectually bankrupt," Mannix said. "If the Legislature lacks the will to fulfill the popular will, the population can still implement their policies. They can do it going to the streets with petitions rather than going to the streets with guns."
-- Voters turned down a measure that would have amended Oregon's state constitution so the free-speech clause couldn't be used to overturn obscenity laws. It would have adopted the U.S. Supreme Court's definition of obscenity, and include child pornography within the definition.
-- Republicans gained the governor's seat in Idaho in an upset victory over a favored candidate who would have been the nation's first Native-American governor.
Republican Phil Batt beat Larry Echohawk. Batt is former lieutenant governor and a former legislator who comes from a farm family.
Echohawk had a 15-point lead against Batt in a poll released two weeks ago. His campaign attracted national attention and Native-American supporters from across the country.
Incumbent Gov. Cecil Andrus, a Democrat, is retiring after three terms in office.
-- With only a few precincts left to report, Alaska's governor's race was deemed too close to call this morning.
Republican Jim Campbell and Democrat Tony Knowles were locked in a virtual tie. Campbell, an Anchorage businessman, and Knowles, a former Anchorage mayor, each had about 41 percent of the vote. Lt. Governor Jack Coghill, running for governor on the right-wing Alaskan Independence ticket, was pulling about 13 percent of the vote, while Green Party candidate Jim Sykes was reported at about 4 percent of the vote.
Most of the precincts left to report were in rural areas of southwestern and northwestern Alaska. Those areas, largely Alaska Native, were expected to favor Knowles.
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